“Then the LORD said: I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you” – Exodus 34:10.
Last week Chairman Peter Boos conveyed, in his welcome remarks at a Strategic Planning Retreat of the new entity Invest Barbados at the Hilton Hotel, that the architects have completed their plans and the foundation stone has been laid. With divine inspiration, the engineers and builders must now get on with the job of building a movement and thrusting it forward. Invest Barbados will engage and challenge the people of Barbados to do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. Invest Barbados must Engage the World.
Acting as Prime Minister, Hon. Mia Mottley, Minister of Economic Affairs and Development, in her opening address gave specific quantitative goals to which Invest Barbados must aspire. She wanted Invest Barbados to be the stimulus which would cause the annual foreign exchange earnings, now standing at 500 million dollars per annum, to be doubled in five years thus achieving an annual billion dollar target.
The Retreat was facilitated by Dr. Eddie Molloy a consultant from the republic of Ireland, but with strong Barbadian connections and experience, working in collaboration with CEO, Dr. Annalee Babb. I was among the local and international team of consultants who were engaged to work with the management team at this retreat the objective of which was to formulate action plans ready for execution.
I shared with the group of stakeholders present the dramatic shift in Singapore’s performance from a GDP per capita of US$900 in 1960 to US$31,000 in 2006. Phenomenal growth when compared to Barbados which shifted from a GDP per capita of US$2,300 in 1960 to US$12,000 in 2006. The Singaporean industrial transformation trend from Labour-Intensive in the 1960s culminating in a Knowledge-Intensive strategy at the turn of the century was reviewed and the CORE elements which constitute the Singapore Advantage – Connectivity, Openness, Reliability and Enterprise were discussed. It was concluded that the thrust for Barbados will be driven by Knowledge Capital and Information & Communications Technology (ICT) overlaid on the existing productive sectors – indigenous services, tourism & its linkages, value-added manufacturing from both an indigenous raw material and knowledge base, financial services, agri-business and renewable energy.
We were also exposed to the experiences of the republic of Ireland, Sweden and Hong Kong and the latest in ICT as it relates to efficiency and effectiveness in business operations. The importance of the Change Management process and the need for effective Internal and External Communication, as Invest Barbados evolves, were also stressed.
The primary portals of responsibility for Invest Barbados which will impact directly on the foreign exchange growth challenge are Indigenous Services Exports and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). These initiatives will continually be boosted by the development of a Brand Barbados around the globe thus allowing us to achieve greater market penetration commensurate with our potential to supply. To do this, there must be a user friendly enabling environment, a business ecosystem, major elements of which are timely access to sources of investment to get high potential performance enterprises off the ground and access to business systems resources to mitigate the risk of failure.
The net foreign exchange growth needed to meet the Minister’s challenge will come from the expansion of existing local businesses which earn or save foreign exchange. Then, there are opportunities for exports in the innovative indigenous services sector. In each case, investment is needed and this can be fuelled by FDI, the mobilization of local financial resources or a combination the two.
Imported ideas usually come with their own FDI but it can also be beneficial to seek partnership with local investors. Invest Barbados will aggressively attract FDI and lobby to mobilise local financial resources. Success in sourcing FDI and success in facilitating the establishment of an independent private sector managed local seed and venture capital company, will provide the financial energy required to boost and sustain enterprise growth. The management team consists of an impressive slate of accomplished “young turks” and more experienced heads. Their interaction with the board of directors, stakeholders and consultants is expected to produce synergies leading to awesome success.
Over the past six years, CBET has attempted to develop potential high performance enterprises. There has been frustration after frustration for the entrepreneurs with good ideas and promising business plans. These frustrations have all been due to the lack of timely access to appropriate funding. Once this is solved then the second constraint, that of the lack of timely access to business systems resources, will be removed because this service, if not available locally, can be sourced and purchased globally. The advent of Invest Barbados has now given rise to a hope that such enterprises will experience “lift off” and grow from strength to strength.
We must engage our people and inform them of the importance of sustainable growth and the role that there are expected to play now to secure the future for posterity. We must engage the world and share the holistic beauty that is Barbados. May the wonders of this nation prevail.